Baseball's 2013 winter meetings wrap up today in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Front office brass and managers from all 30 major league teams will soon be heading back to their home bases.
Many teams have made notable free-agent signings or trades during these meetings, but the Texas Rangers are not one of them.
That's okay with general manager Jon Daniels. He and his front office staff will fly back to Texas knowing that patience on the free-agent market has paid off for them in the past.
For example, in 2011 Daniels waited till mid-January to swoop in and sign third baseman Adrian Beltre to a five-year, $80 million contract with a vesting option for a sixth year to make the deal worth $96 million.
Daniels didn't jump and reveal his hand at the 2010 winter meetings, but instead played out the market and got a desired Scott Boras client likely for less than his original asking price.
At the time of his January 2011 signing with the Rangers, Beltre was also 31. I don't need to rattle off the numbers for you. In his three years in Arlington, he has been by far the Rangers best and most consistent player—he's been worth every penny.
The Rangers' current situation with free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is remarkably similar. Same age at potential signing, same agent and has the potential to impact the club in similar ways—by providing an all-around solid game without a major flaw.
You could argue that Choo's splits against left-handed pitchers are a weak spot in his game, but ultimately I think whichever team he signs with will have overlooked this in favor of all other advantages he offers.
Now that the winter meetings are just about done, the Rangers have the luxury of waiting for Choo's price to drop to a more agreeable level. Thanks to flurry of acquisitions in the last four days involving the Seattle Mariners and the Arizona Diamondbacks—once thought to be the Rangers' main competition for Choo—Texas now seems alone on his market.
But Joel Sherman, baseball columnist at the New York Post, suggested that the Houston Astros could step into the fray for Choo as a surprise team.
TOTAL SPECULATION: But execs wonder if others going in diff directions opens #Astros to make strong run at Choo. Theory: GM Luhnow (cont)— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 12, 2013
loves OBP/Choo's strength. Chance to push along rebuild/excite fans sooner. again, just execs from other clubs speculation. #astros— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 12, 2013
Meanwhile, Jon Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted this:
The Rangers appear comfortable going to five years on Shin-Soo Choo. Scott Boras wants seven. We will see if they settle in the middle.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 12, 2013
I think the Rangers should still wait this out a bit. If I'm Jon Daniels, I'm not really concerned about Houston stealing away Choo. I truly believe that Choo wants to play for a contending team over the life of his contract.
It's reasonable to assume that, as Morosi says, the Rangers are prepared to offer five years and around $100 million and probably a little more for Choo. I have a very hard time imagining that the Astros will top that deal—it would take an offer that absolutely blows the Rangers' away to land Choo.
I don't see the Astros committing to a 31-year-old player in the middle of a four- to five-year rebuilding project. That just doesn't make sense for Houston. Choo is a great player who can potentially put a contending ball club over the top. Houston is nowhere near contender status.
Now, I realize my "absolute final" plan for the Rangers in 2014 has already gone to the dogs. I was in favor of returning Nelson Cruz to Arlington on the grounds that Choo would just be a bit too pricey. But...if Daniels can continue to work his waiting game on Boras, he just might be able to land Choo on a six-year deal.
Considering Cruz wants three years or more, Choo in that case is a no-brainer. I also originally wanted the Rangers to sign Bartolo Colon. He's long gone now, and it's probably a great thing—I wouldn't have even considered two years and $20 million.
Out in Seattle, I think the Mariners invested a little too heavily in Corey Hart.
So for the sake of a completely wild and unpredictable market, let me just stick to some more flexible language:
I hope the Rangers can sign Choo to a six-year deal. That would be a great value considering Boras' desired deal length. If they cannot land Choo, they should focus on Cruz. They should land one of these guys. It is technically possible to land both, but it would tightly strain the team's budget over the life of Cruz's contract.
Either way, Daniels and his front office should remain patient and opportunistic. I really believe the right deal is coming soon.